One of the world's leading opera teachers has lauded a member of the hit Kiwi trio Sole Mio as "a young Pavarotti".
Acclaimed voice tutor Cesar Ulloa is the chairman of the San Francisco Opera Centre Merola and Adler programmes for young artists.
Two of the young artists in his programme are the Samoan Pati brothers Pene and Amitai who perform with cousin Moses Mackay as Sole Mio.
Talking this week after the opening of the New Zealand Opera School at Collegiate School in Whanganui, Ulloa singled out Pene Pati, 28, for special praise.
He said when the Pati Brothers came to him from the Cardiff Academy and master tutor Dennis O'Neill he questioned whether there was anything he could teach them.
"They have God-given voices. I am just their guide."
Pene, he believes, is a young Pavarotti.
"He is about to sing his first major role of the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto for the San Francisco Opera Company."
Italian-born Luciano Pavarotti was the top-selling classical singer known for his performances with the Three Tenors and Pavarotti & Friends.
Pavarotti died of kidney failure on September 6, 2007, at home in Modena, Italy.
His funeral ceremony in Modena was an international event attended by celebrities and more than 50,000 music lovers from all over the world.
Ulloa has more than 30 students who perform regularly on the major operatic and concert stages of the world.
He said young up and coming singers excite him.
"I love to teach and I am fortunate because I easily hear if there is a problem in a voice."
Ulloa said it was clear from very early on that Pene Pati was something special.
"When he came to me I thought there was nothing I could teach him. I could only guide him."
He told Pene Pati he could only do one Sole Mio concert a year if he was going to be serious about his operatic career.
Kiri Te Kanawa made a similar comparison last year at the opera school.
Pene Pati married soprano Amina Edris in January 15 last year at Villa Maria Estate in Mangere, where Pene proposed a year earlier during a concert.